Agribusiness buzz in brief

Agribusiness buzz in brief


Agribusiness
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What some of the players are doing to make the news on the agribusiness stage

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MacBank plans $50m giveaway

Macquarie Bank is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a massive charity giveaway which has regional child health institution, Royal Far West, in the running for a $10m windfall.

Five Australian non-profit organisations are among the 12 finalists vying for a place in the $50m donation spree.

Royal Far West, which in recent years has extended services well outside its traditional home territory in rural NSW, wants to significantly broaden its telecare program and hopes to be a recipient when funds are announced in August.

Telecare gives remote children with health and learning issues access to special paediatric healthcare via video links back to Royal Far West's Manly beachfront base, in Sydney.

Other non-profit contenders on the shortlist include the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, University of Melbourne's FRE02 Foundation, Monash University's World Mosquito program, and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

About 1000 organisations worldwide with working budgets of more than $4m a year nominated for selection but just five will receive a $10m gift from Macquarie.

The Australian investment bank, often referred to as "the millionaires' factory" because of the big money it has paid staff, began as a three-person business in 1969, last week posting a $3 billion annual profit.

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NZ's Tip Top for sale

The future of New Zealand's favourite ice cream brand, Tip Top, is up for grabs this month as dairy giant Fonterra considers bids from four major contenders - three from Australia.

The Fonterra sell-off follows the kiwi super co-operative's first ever annual loss of about $185 million last year, which came after a $400m write down on its investment with Chinese partner, Beingmate, and a $172m damages bill it paid Danone after a false botulism scare.

Fonterra, now carrying almost 50 per cent debt, looked into potential sale options for all its major assets and partnerships, including the 85-year-old Tip Top, which it bought from Australia's Peters and Brownes dairy group in 2001.

One bidder is reportedly today's owner of the Peters ice cream brand, European investment group, PAI Partners' R&R Ice Cream - the world's second biggest ice cream maker.

The prospective Australian buyers, private equity firms BGH Capital, Mercury Capital and Pacific Equity Partners, are expected to pay up to $280m if any of them win the deal.

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Drought community donations

More than 60 drought-affected communities in regional and remote Australia will share in the latest $1.5 million distributions from the Tackling Tough Times Together grant program.

The majority of grants support projects which help build local community resilience while residents endure the drought, by investing in infrastructure and equipment.

Payments are funded by more than 15 key donations from government, philanthropy, business and individuals, including the Australian Government which committed $15m to be distributed over three years.

NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia communities ranging in population from a tiny 80 in Kyancutta, SA to 24,000 in Griffith, NSW, will receive funds (mostly up to $20,000 each), distributed by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.

Major contributors include the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, ANZ Banking Group, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Sidney Myer Fund, Pratt Foundation, Australia Post, Westpac Group, Aussie Farmers Foundation, NRMA and Rex Airlines.

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Bush food nutrition study

NSW Northern Rivers' company, Pocket Herbs - a specialist edible plants in Burringbar Valley - has teamed up with Southern Cross University to determine the nutritional (and anti-nutritional) content of native bush foods.

Up to 20 bush food varieties will be propagated in greenhouses as part of a one-year $95,000 study, jointly funded by Pocket Herbs and the federal government's entrepreneurs program, Innovation Connections.

The university's Lismore campus is providing research leadership for the first-time study.

"Succulent wild vegetables have become very popular in high end restaurants, and it's time to really start producing these crops more consistently and in larger volumes," said Peter Hardwick, a Northern Rivers' wild plant researcher and professional forager.

"Horticultural production provides a reliable supply and quality, but we need to know what the optimum conditions are for these as crops."

Pocket Herbs supplies wholesalers and local providores, who in turn supply to chefs, restaurants and cafes.

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